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All the distractions of Yellowstone (I must’ve pulled off the side of the road for pictures 20 times) slowed my journey to Wyoming and the Grand Tetons, so that by the time I pulled into the Jenny Lake campsite it was full. I back-tracked up to Jackson Lake and quickly found a spot overlooking the lake next to a nice couple from Kansas City who informed me that as of a half-an-hour before Jenny Lake was still open. Damn it. The first disappointment of the trip. I promptly got over it considering that since I hadn’t made reservations anywhere it was bound to happen and I had been lucky so far. If anything, it gives me a reason to come back to this beautiful place!.

Without reservations, I had chosen freedom over security. This trip has reinforced how much of a gift freedom and independence are. While I think we all have access to freedom and independence, some of us take advantage of them more than others. Maybe because we take them for granted or associate them with tangible things, like having or lacking money. Honestly, it is hard for me to understand what it would be like not to feel empowered by either of them. Going out and doing something I’ve never done before or exploring something on my own seems so normal to me. It has been striking to me through out this trip to see the surprise on people’s facesĀ  when I say I’m traveling alone. I don’t think it’s just because I am a woman or young, but because I am on my own. Honestly, it has made all the difference to do this trip independently with the freedom to pull off the road whenever I want, eat (or not) when I feel like it, be grumpy in the morning without guilt…

Post-swim at Jackson Lake by the Grand Tetons

Post-swim at Jackson Lake by the Grand Tetons

Feeling grimy and hungry, I brought leftovers down to the lake to sit and enjoy the view of the Grand Tetons in the distance. How amazing how far I had come from the morning when I had woken up on the “wrong side of the tent” from lack of sleep, wondering: Why am I doing this trip again? Has it only been a week? After so many miraculous sights and a little shopping today, I could sit by the lake and again marvel at the moment being presented to me. Since I was going to Jackson Hole in the morning (I spent all of 17 hours in the Grand Teton National Park) I decided to attempt a cleansing swim in the lake, not taking into account that the Tetons have glaciers = ice = ice water = lake. Even with goosebumps the size of the Tetons on my legs and arms it was a refreshing opportunity as the sun set on another day.

DISCLAIMER: Considering I’m two weeks into the trip, clearly I’m not in Glacier anymore. Starting this travel blog I underestimated how much internet access I would have, how much energy I would have left after days of exploring and how much time it takes to upload and blog. Speaking of time..

Still a little shaken from the Swinging Bridge I made it back to my car with a growling stomach. No wonder I was hungry, my phone said it was 2 p.m. Curiously, I had left the camp site at 9:30 a.m. and had only traveled 50 miles. Surely, the three-quarter mile hike hadn’t taken 3 hours? Had it? Something was fishy, but since I was apparently behind schedule I hit the road and cruised to Glacier National Park. When I got into West Glacier, I stopped at the Montana Vortex to take pictures. Clearly, this was not the only vortex I had entered. How was time flying by? Checking my phone again it was 2 p.m. And then it hit me, time zones! My “satellite” oriented phone was futilely trying to keep up with time. Hence, I have come to rely upon my internal clock and asking locals.

With a snow advisory for the evening, I set up camp at Sprague Creek (a 20 tent site) and then took off to tour Going to the Sun Road and Logan Pass before any potential weather. If I had to describe the word immense in an image, it would be the glaciers that even dwarf 500 foot tall waterfalls that miraculously spring from their rock faces. While it’s summer, it is still shocking how little snow comprises these “glaciers” (I am still not clear if that term includes the ice or the ice and underlying rock). Glaciers are known to move achingly slow, yet their recession has been stealth. This is how global warming hits home, which was reinforced by the park ranger presentation I saw that night at Lake McDonald Lodge. Now, if we could only bring everyone here, so they could truly understand the immensity of the environmental shift/crisis we are undergoing.

A moment at Avalanche Lake in Glacier.

A moment at Avalanche Lake in Glacier.

I fully entered the vortex of the outdoors on my hike to Avalanche Lake. Nature truly is a different world. A world where time seems to become irrelevant. If it’s still light out, what does it matter if it’s 11 a.m. or 3 p.m.? I was easily sucked into the timelessness of the present moment along the trail. One moment paused to look for a place to take a leak. The next moment I’m staring at a mama-sized black bear 75 feet down the trail. Run? Photo? Stay? Talk? Shouldn’t I be more scared? Something is wrong when my immediate thought is to get closer for a photo of a WILD animal, when just yesterday a bridge scared my pants off!

We parted ways and I eventually made it to the serene lake. Now, this is what I picture Eden like. How could you not “be present” in this world? That is all there is – a series of moments – unlike my life at home. Isn’t it amazing that we let our lives be dictated by this abstract constriction we created, called time? It has been hard to turn off that calculated, proactive, “efficient” part of my brain on this trip. I could only spend 30 minutes at the lake before needing to head back, check out of the campsite by noon and head to Missoula. Unfortunately, my human, time-constrained schedule beckoned.

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26 was a defining and adventurous year for Julie Williams, a Portland, Ore.-based communications consultant.

This blog chronicles Julie's crossing of the quarter-life threshold and coming of age on her solo road trip across seven Western states from Aug.-Sept. 2008.

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